Offshore outsourcing is hot with many small business owners giving it a try. Offshore VA’s (Virtual Assistants) especially are in great demand due to their wide skill set and ability to take all those little but time consuming tasks off of your plate.
An offshore VA is often touted as the answer to your business woes and frustrations. They’ll complete your admin and won’t break the bank. You’ll be able to scale your business and concentrate on the stuff you excel at. Sounds great right?
The reality however for many business owners is very different. They give it a try, and it sucks. The end result is poor, communication is difficult and managing the VA becomes more frustrating than just getting on with the job yourself. Sound familiar?
I’m sorry to tell you – it’s not them; it’s you.
Where did you go wrong?
No Clear Instructions
To work with an offshore VA successfully you need to provide exact instructions with no room for interpretation. If you’re not clear on what you want how can you expect someone else to be?
You need to tell your VA what you want done, how you want it completed and what the end result should look like. A quick conversation just won’t cut it in most cases, usually English is their second language. We also use industry terms that may not be understood and quite often due to cultural differences your VA will say they understand when in fact, they only caught a fraction of your request.
How to get it right
Simply create a workflow for the task and develop a ‘how to’ procedure for each step.
For example, If you’re requesting the VA confirm your weekly meetings, it would look something like this:
Although you’ve got to provide all this information up front (do I hear a chorus of ‘I may as well do it myself?) the fact is, you only need to do this once – even if you have a change in staff member the process is forever there.
Create a clear workflow. Add in the process and voila, that task is off your list forever. This will work for any admin task within your business and will absolutely give you the ability to scale.
TIP: Snag It or any screen capture software is quick and simply for developing on screen procedures.
Frequent and clear communication is key. With many business owners it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.
I work with all my offshore contractors as if they were sat next to me in the office (without the benefit of the coffee run). I speak with them regularly via video to establish a relationship. I equip them with the right tools so that they’re able to do their job. I provide ongoing training and time away from the business for self learning. I share whats happening within the business so they understand where they fit and how they add value. I provide regular positive feedback where its due.
Although this sounds like regular stuff when managing employees, many business owners seem to forget these elements with offshore staff. As a result the employee feels detached, starts to underperform and ultimately the relationship sours.
How to get it right
- Schedule a recurring video meeting in your diary, have a standard agenda to cover (current, in progress & completed tasks, general business update, new task training). Make the catch up a daily habit and commit for the long haul.
- Be open to bringing your VA into the business. Share the business wins and challenges. Share your vision and how their role fits within it. Empower them to share their ideas to add value to the business.
- Treat your VA as a valued employee. If you’re not used to managing staff, do some research and brush up on your people management skills. Ensure you have the right employee tools in place such as a job description and KPIs. Perform regular performance reviews and provide positive feedback and rewards where appropriate. In short, treat them as you wish to be treated.
All too often business owners hire a VA with crazy expectations. They want someone who can manage their website, design their logo, develop a digital strategy and manage their daily admin. Would you find someone with all of those skills locally? No? Then why would you expect to find someone like that offshore?
Business owners also imagine hiring a VA will somehow magically fix their business. Within the blink of an eye the admin backlog will be cleared, the sales funnel full and all accounts up to date. This absolutely will not happen. They do not have magic dust to sprinkle around. What they can do though is take tasks off your plate and give you more time to fix your business.
How to get it right:
- Have a clear list of tasks you want the VA to perform and hire someone with the right skill set.
- Ensure that you give the VA access to the right technology to perform the tasks.
- Temper your enthusiasm and give the VA time to understand your business and how you do things. This cannot be learnt overnight.
Using an offshore VA for your business has many benefits but as the business owner you need to be committed. You need to have the tools and technology in place, have the tasks you want completed documented, processes developed and be open to bringing someone new into the fold. On boarding your VA may take a few months. You’ll need to allocate time for calls and training, be patient while the VA learns the tasks and importantly, be prepared to let go (this in itself can be tough for some!).
If you can master this –more free time, less frustration and a growing business will be your ultimate reward.